People are at the heart of the European agenda for research and innovation. The EU does not regard scientific solutions as an end in themselves. Instead, they are a means of bettering our lives, our communities and our environment.
Citizens’ engagement is therefore a key element for the EU Missions. Missions have the potential to mobilize EU citizens around common goals and to offer meaningful opportunities to participate in change. They are instrumental to building a deliberative democracy in the EU.
Missions also capture the insight that opening science and innovation to civil society advances human knowledge and accelerates the transformation of our communities towards more sustainable and resilient practices. Citizens play a key role in the research and innovation cycle by providing feedback on new technologies and by ensuring societal uptake of disruptive solutions.
The sections below describe the citizens’ engagement activities conducted by each EU Mission, and further activities in support.
In the Mission Adaptation to Climate Change, the engagement of citizen and local stakeholders is organised first and foremost at local and regional level. Each region and community participating in the Mission is required to ensure the engagement of citizens throughout the various steps of the Missions.
The Horizon Europe calls on the Mission require that participating regions and their partner organisations establish mechanisms to ensure the meaningful engagement of citizens and local stakeholders. In the Horizon Europe Mission Work Programme 2021, a dedicated topic on citizen engagement foresees support to regions and communities in their efforts to engage citizens through applied research on best practices and on further innovative ways and means to engage citizens in the context of adapting to climate change.
Member States could consider setting up national support structures or regional networking initiatives that promote collaboration and best practice exchange between regions and communities, including on how to involve citizens in the mission in their roles as consumers, producers, users and owners.
Starting in 2023, the Mission Implementation Platform will help mobilise support and engagement from citizens by developing services on participation, citizen engagement and governance, including capacity building for region officials and civil society, participation methods and inclusion approaches. The services will enable regions and communities to involve citizens in a continuous way through accessible communication, co-creation and bottom-up identification of adaptation priorities. The platform should also help set up dedicated mechanisms for the engagement of citizens such as citizens assemblies or peer parliaments.
The Climate Pact
To help citizens understand the need for climate action and facilitate the green transition at all levels of society, in December 2020, the European Commission launched the EU Climate Pact. It is a movement of people and organisations united around the common cause of a green future, all taking steps in different fields towards a more sustainable Europe. Helping citizens to work better together and with European institutions . The Pact also helps the EU to meet its goal: to be the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.
European Green Deal Projects on citizen science:
- The REGILIENCE project will develop two open seminars (June and November 2022), carry out a first Citizen Survey to map stakeholder perception and opinion on climate adaptation and resilience. A Citizen Resilience Scan Tool will be available in 2023. The project launched a survey on EUSurvey - Survey (europa.eu) to gather experiences from vulnerable regions in different parts of Europe, in order to understand common needs and challenges to adapt to climate change impacts.
- The ARSINOE project will engage citizens addressing the growing complexity, interdependencies and interconnectedness of modern societies and economies, analysing challenges, recognizing the opportunities and designing solutions. ARSINOE will organize a first local BioBlitz in Athens in the second half of 2022 to report observations of urban biodiversity, in particular urban trees. The event will test the new developed citizen observatory MINKA (a rebranded version of Natusfera).
- The IMPETUS project will design and elaborate a stakeholders mapping and engagement strategy, starting in February 2022 and carry out stakeholder surveys.
- The TransformAr project did hold a stakeholder workshop at the end of February 2022 hosted by the West Country Rivers Trust in the UK to understand better how climate change and its impacts on the West Country region are perceived by local actors. By September 2022, the project will distribute a cross-country public acceptance survey to 9000 members of the general public on preferences with regard to climate change adaptation measures in Finland, Guadeloupe, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The EU Mission on Cancer integrates innovative approaches to citizen engagement to jointly achieve with the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan the ambitious goal of “improving the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030, through prevention, cure and for those affected by cancer including their families, to live longer and better”.
An informed and engaged citizen community - including cancer patients, survivors, their family, and caregivers - constitutes a great asset for the successful deployment of the EU Mission on Cancer. It represents a real benefit by building trustful dialogues with citizens and providing direct citizens’ feedback on the proposed initiatives. For example, through its citizen engagement activities, the EU Mission on Cancer will systematically integrate citizens’ feedback on prevention measures, help tailor those to the specific needs of different population groups, which will accelerate the achievement of prevention targets. Similarly, citizens’ feedback on new screening recommendations will improve the implementation of and access to screening programmes by citizens.
Therefore, the EU Mission on Cancer foresees a series of citizen engagement activities in the coming years to ensure a regular engagement of citizens.
In the Horizon Europe Mission Work Programme 2022, a dedicated topic foresees the setting up of national Mission hubs, which will allow for a regular dialogue between national and regional authorities on the implementation of Mission related actions. These will also support Member States in organising citizen engagement activities. The cancer session during high-level conference on citizen engagement of 21 March 2022 under the French Presidency will provide a unique opportunity to define a framework to facilitate the engagement of citizens to future Mission actions at the EU and Member States level.
Public mobilisation, citizen engagement and awareness are key to achieve the ambition of the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030”. The Mission will mobilise on a broad basis, engaging the European public to help catalyse the necessary transformative change for the restoration of the ocean and waters. The Mission will connect citizens and local communities with the ocean, seas and waters, and empower them to engage in preserving one of our most precious resources. It will provide ownership and tailored participation opportunities such as citizen science actions, ocean and water literacy (with initiatives like EU4Ocean), and involvement of solidarity corps and volunteers.
The engagement of citizens as well as participatory approaches are proposed at various levels throughout the Mission implementation. At basin level, the governance structure of the Mission seeks active involvement of citizens for a “green and blue” transition to a healthy ocean and waters. At the same time, citizen engagement is an important aspect that cuts across all topics in the Horizon Europe calls on the Mission Ocean and Waters.
In particular, the Horizon Europe Mission Work Programme 2021 puts forward specific topics supporting citizens' involvement. It also supports the “Europeanisation of the Plastic Pirates” citizen science initiative, which enables a Europe-wide plastic sampling campaign targeting young citizens and pupils to investigate plastic pollution of rivers and coastal areas. Moreover, in line with the 2022 European Year of the Youth, a foresight study on the relation of the young generation with the sea and waters will contribute to shaping policies and initiatives at EU, national and regional level to better address the expectations of young generations. Finally, a coordination and support action will “pilot citizen science in marine and freshwater domains”.
Moving forward, the Mission will present some actions to support community-led business models in specific domains with the participation of broader stakeholders including citizens. For the users of the sea, the Mission will also support a Blue Forum as envisaged in the Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy. The forum will coordinate a dialogue between offshore operators, stakeholders and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, renewable energy and other activities.
This Mission aims to strengthen and capitalise on the unique position of cities as the level of government closest to citizens, as challenge and opportunity hubs where ‘policy meets people’.
The Mission is built around the involvement of citizens in their different roles as political agents, users, producers, consumers and owners of buildings and transport means. In these capacities, citizens have a huge impact on the environment and climate, and they can take an active role to drive the transition to climate neutrality as co-designers, co-implementers and co-beneficiaries.
Pathways to citizen engagement have been investigated during the design phase of the Mission, from 13 citizen consultations organised in March-September 2020, to the report of the Mission Board in September 2020 stating that “a precondition for a Climate City Contract is that citizens are given a new active role, new platforms to act and better resources to play their role”.
The priority continues in the implementation phase. As stated in the Info Kit for Cities, the Mission will empower cities to “mobilise the knowledge, imagination, affections and values of citizens to improve the quality of policymaking”. Reporting done by cities under the Call for Expressions of Interest closed in January 2022 will help to identify capacities and gaps for citizen engagement.
Building on these insights, the NetZeroCities consortium - launched in October 2021 to set up the Mission Platform – is working to ensure that city governments and staff are able to use participative and co-creative methods and to implement initiatives that emerge from these processes.
The success of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ depends on actions being taken by citizens at all levels. However, the lack of soil literacy is a barrier to achieving soil health improvements.
The Mission acts to raise awareness of the societal role of soils, to ensure access to soil health education and training both for citizens and practitioners, to strengthen citizen participation in soil and land-oriented activities, and to reward best practices.
To change societies’ behaviour around soils, people’s awareness of the societal role and value of soils will be enhanced. Communication activities throughout the Mission should bring soils, as well as soil research and innovation, closer to the lives of citizens to trigger action and involvement.
The Mission will mobilise actors at all levels from the EU to Member States, regions, and municipalities. Citizens will have various opportunities to connect to soils and integrate soil health into their lives.
For instance, Horizon Europe will finance projects to establish dialogues at the local and regional levels, where people can co-create solutions for the protection and restoration of the soils they step on.
The Mission will also run national engagement sessions to build capacities of potential applicants of Living Labs and lighthouses, places at the core of the co-implementation of the Mission.
In addition, citizen science projects will help scientists to collect data, and people to be more conscious of the crucial role and beauty of soil.
In the upcoming years, the Mission will involve the private sector to promote sustainable land management practices, work with creative industries to change the way people’s value soils, and support citizen-led soil stewardship.
Finally, schools, universities and training centres will play a key role in the green transition by engaging with pupils, students, teachers, parents, and the wider community on the changes needed for a successful transition. The Mission will contribute to the Education for Climate Coalition, by fostering soil literacy across society.
National policy roundtables on climate transition
The European Commission is currently running a citizen engagement project for a just climate transition, the “Citizens’ voice for Climate Transition”, which is part of the H2020 European Green Deal calls. Its results could feed into the Missions.
The goal of this project is to elaborate an EU roadmap for the climate transition with the active participation of citizens. The roadmap itself will be drafted by selected experts, but the actions to elaborate the roadmap will gather input from citizens, civil society, research and education communities as well as national authorities through a series of engagement events across the 27 Member States.
Phase one will entail the organisation of participatory workshops with over 800 citizens – a representative sample of 30 in each Member State – to get input on what would make a just climate transition. These citizens’ workshops have been running from November 2021 and end in March 2022. The groups of citizens in each country are deliberating on three key areas for the climate transition: sustainable food production, smart and sustainable mobility, and energy-efficient buildings. Citizens’ recommendations will be gathered under each theme.
The second phase will be national policy roundtables, gathering policymakers, academia, and civil society organisations in order to elaborate national policy roadmaps for a just transition.
If you are an expert in sustainable food production, smart mobility, or energy-efficient buildings, please join our national policy roundtables.
A specific Call under H2020 in support of the Green Deal will spend EUR 12 milion for research projects in citizen deliberation on the climate transition.
The Call was specifically designed for projects that could support the EU Missions.
Two projects are being funded:
- PHOENIX – The rise of citizens voices for a Greener Europe
The newly-launched PHOENIX project will test different citizen engagement processes in 7 countries, in a diverse range of socio-cultural and environmental contexts. Ten of the pilots are already selected, in partnership with 10 local, regional, and national governments. An 11th pilot could be decided in partnership with relevant Missions.
- REAL_DEAL – Reshaping European advances towards Green Leadership through Deliberative Approaches and Learning
The REAL_DEAL project will set up pan-European deliberative processes around the European Green Deal. It brings together researchers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from a wide range of disciplines. It involves the EU’s largest networks of civil society organisations active in the field of environment, climate, sustainable development, local democracy, and the youth climate movement, who possess and will make use of their established relationships with thousands of policymakers. Citizens’ assemblies will be held in 13 countries, as well as a pan-European citizens’ assembly focusing on vulnerable and marginalised populations. The project will also form a pan-European civil society forum for a green and just transition, and a network of policymakers supporting participatory and deliberative policymaking in this field.
The Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy
The JRC launched in October 2021 a Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy. As well as offering knowledge, resources and tools, the competence centre provides both virtual spaces and physical spaces to run and experiment with citizen engagement methods. The Competence Centre also strives to be the centre for reflection on the processes carried out by the European institutions. Hence, it is currently developing a framework to evaluate citizen engagement in policymaking, including the extent to which these are being mainstreamed across the EU.
As part of its portfolio, the JRC has actively supported the mainstreaming of citizen engagement practices across the Missions, prominently in the Cities Mission, Adaptation to Climate Change Mission and more recently the Cancer Mission. In June 2021, 3 citizens panels were run in 3 Member States focusing on the New European Bauhaus. The recommendations were used for the Communication on the New European Bauhaus.